From progressive forms of flat-sharing to the shiny new start-up culture of co-housing, we checked out alternatives for all ages.
Almost half of Berlin households are single apartments. Are you unwillingly living in one of them? If you’re sitting in your lonely, one-bedroom flat reading this, longing for someone to chat to over dinner, or feeling alone because your current housemates don’t share your most sacred worldviews, then you might be interested in alternative kinds of communal living. Here are some examples that may give you hope – or make you think twice before leaving your bachelor pad.
Sharing is caring
A new trend has hit the WG-scene: the Funktionale WG. Here, furthering the meaning of “shared” housing, private rooms are non-existent: every space in the apartment is communal and serves a different purpose. There are designated rooms for studying, sleeping and… well, sex. This April, Berliners Jonas and Marius put an ad on wgcompany.de (the lefty’s wg-gesucht.de) seeking members for their own functional WG, stating “We want to try out new forms of living together, and not ask ourselves for the rest of our lives if it could have worked.” And their search was successful: last month they moved, along with five new flatmates, into a renovated Altbau apartment close to Friedrichshain’s Boxhagener Platz. Their new 125sqm home is divided into a kitchen, two bathrooms, only one bedroom (currently filled with a bunch of mattresses), a living room, a study and a Kreativraum in which they can make art, music and love (there’s already an extra bed for that). The seven 20-somethings, their occupations ranging from studying social work to fulltime programming, are united in left-wing solidarity – as is proven by their rental agreement: “It’s unfair to ask someone with a lower income to pay the same amount as others who make more, leaving them with almost no money to live,” says Jonas. What each individual pays differs month to month from €300 to €500. Jonas, living from a well-paid traineeship, is on the higher end of the spectrum. “I feel good about being able to support this house with my income and helping us as a group.” But no matter how much rent they pay, everybody has the same power in decision-making. “We don’t want hierarchy within our community,” Jonas says. In their weekly circle meetings, which can last up to three hours, the group discusses everything from the big questions (“Are we going to tell our neighbours about us?”) to which kind of Haferflocken they would prefer for breakfast. All food in the house is shared and for environmental reasons, the WG is vegan-only. “You could bring your own, personal cheese into the house, but we would have to discuss it,” explains Kira, one of the first who joined Jonas and Marius in their project.
The boutique bubble
Residents get to hang out in the “Club House”: an informal workplace including a restaurant and cosy couches, where drinking coffee and playing ping-pong is encouraged.”
Settling into a new city can take a while, but co-living companies are here to conveniently speed up the process by renting out accommodation and work space under one roof. “We try to minimise the time tenants need to adapt to a new city,” says Yoni Karako, co-founder of Vonder. As the city’s seventh co-living venture, Vonder opened its first Berlin location in April of this year and quickly expanded, now counting eight different buildings with more than 500 residents. Their “artsy” Kreuzberg location on Köpenicker Straße only accepts residents working in the creative field or at tech start-ups, aged between 21 and 32 years old, while their 44 apartment complex in Charlottenburg’s Bismarckstraße, opened two months ago, mostly targets students. Here, residents get to hang out in the “Club House” (photo below): an informal workplace including a restaurant and cosy couches, where drinking coffee and playing ping-pong is encouraged. Vonder offers free-of-charge help with the Anmeldung and opening a German bank account with N26. Starting next month, Bismarckstraße will also have a gym, a laundry room with a speakeasy, and a Späti, giving tenants no reason to ever leave the building. “We don’t necessarily focus on expats,” says Karako, “but at about 75 percent, they’re definitely the majority of our residents.” If you don’t mind living coddled in a mostly expat populated bubble, you can either, for a minimum of six months, share a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen with a roommate for €390 per month or afford yourself the privacy of a one-bedroom apartment for €900 per month.
Prefer to live with women? Berlin is home to three female-only Beginenhöfe, which in medieval times were laid-back alternatives to monasteries for unmarried Christians. But nowadays you don’t have to be strictly religious or an old spinster to apply for an apartment here. Beginenhof Kreuzberg welcomes women from all backgrounds and is currently home to 55 residents, aged 23 to 85, in 52 individual apartments. Half of them are single, the other half are divorced or widowed, and two actually have their male partners living with them. Community is highly important to the mostly retired ladies: in the daytime they can have lunch together or sit in their communal garden, while in the evenings various resident clubs meet in their downstairs common room to watch films, discuss books, sing or do yoga. “Of course we’re not all best friends, but we do help each other and when you get sick, there is always someone who will bring you a cup of tea to your bedside,” says 85-year-old Jutta Kämper. A former squatter and urban planner, she is one of the founders of Beginenhof Kreuzberg and a happy resident since her Verein realised the project in 2007 on a piece of land bought from the district of Kreuzberg. The women found a Dutch developer to build their dream house, allowing them to individually buy the 52 to 100sqm flats. Since then, they initiated two more women-run houses: Müggelhof in Friedrichshain and Florahof in Pankow. Now the Verein has served its purpose and community life is organised between the apartment owners and the current tenants. “Some of the initial owners have died, but the heirs are only legally allowed to rent out to women, or move in themselves. So far this has been working fine for us.” Currently, the house is fully occupied and spaces only become available once someone sells or sublets their apartment. “We have very few non-German women living here, and I don’t know how they found out about us,” Kämper says, “it’s a bit of an insiders’ thing!” So now you’re in the know, you too can keep an eye out for their flats on the market.